The Poinsettia: History and Care

From the 14th to the 16th century, the Aztecs called the Poinsettia plant “Cuetlzxochitl”. In the Nahuatl language, Cuitllatl translates to “residue,” while xochiti is “flower.” This translates to “the flower that grows in the residues or soil.”

The Aztec king, Montezuma, had Poinsettias caravanned to what is now Mexico City. To them, this plant symbolized purity. It was used against fevers and as a dye. The Franciscan Friars also used Poinsettias in their Nativity procession. This star shaped leaf symbolized Bethlehem’s Star to them and was called “Noche Buena,” or Christmas Eve.

Poinsettias are small plants that bloom during the winter and can become 2 to 16 feet high. Their green leaves are 3 to 6 inches long. The colored part of Poinsettias are called bracts and are really leaves. These colors are red, white, pink, orange or marbled. Most people think that the bracts are flowers, but the actual flowers are in the middle of each leaf group. Though believed to be poisonous by many, Poinsettias actually aren’t as long as you don’t eat them, or aren’t sensitive to them.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, first United States Ambassador to Mexico, found the Poinsettias and brought them home to the United States with him in 1828. The name of these plants was officially changed to Poinsettia in 1836 by William Prescott, a horticulturalist and historian.

Put your Poinsettia is near a sunny window and where temperature over 65 degrees is constant. Mist it with distilled lukewarm water daily. Only water the plant when the soil feels dry. Keep watering until all water has drained into the saucer. Empty the drained water from the saucer. Keep the Poinsettia away from drafts, either hot or cold.

When you set out your Poinsettias each holiday season, you can add to the beauty of the decorations with the addition of orchids and roses. Make your holiday decorations the talk of your neighborhood.

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